DA Fields Hard Questions from Eureka Service Group

DA Fields Hard Questions from Eureka Service Group
Posted by CN Staff on June 11, 2003 at 08:58:55 PT
By James Tressler, The Times-Standard 
Source: Times-Standard 
Eureka  -- Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos spoke before about 100 members of the Rotary Club of Eureka at the Eureka Inn on Monday. He appeared to get passing marks from most in the audience. The district attorney devoted most of his allotted time, about a half hour, to a question-and-answer session with members of the service group. Gallegos was asked to explain his controversial new medical marijuana prosecution guidelines and how he arrived at them. 
The guidelines allow patients to have up to 99 plants in a 100-foot vegetative canopy area, or no more than 3 pounds of processed marijuana buds. Similar restrictions are also imposed on those who have indoor growing operations. The guidelines have been cited by proponents of an effort to recall Gallegos, who took office in January, as an example of his perceived soft stance on crime. Farmer's predecessor, Terry Farmer, allowed patients 10 plants per year. Gallegos explained that his new guidelines recognize California's law, Proposition 215, allowing medical marijuana, and evolved in part from research into federal studies. The policy also takes into consideration, based on meetings with patients, how much marijuana patients need to take each day for ailments and makes room for the complex process involved in growing the plant. "We did not make the law relating to medical marijuana," Gallegos said. "But it's a law we all need to respond to and comply with. If we didn't we'd be just like those kids in the forest." The latter statement referred to tree-sitting activists.Earlier in the session, a Rotarian asked the district attorney to explain why an activist recently arrested for trespassing after sitting in a tree in Freshwater for a year only got a $10 fine, while the Rotarian recently got a parking ticket at Humboldt State University and paid $15. Gallegos stood by the tree-sitters' penalty, explaining that a number of factors went into the punishment, including that the activist, Jeny Card, aka Remedy, had no prior record and cooperated with law enforcement. Gallegos said finding tougher measures to deter activists in the future isn't easy, considering the dedication most activists have to their causes."They are certain individuals to whom jail is fine, a fine is fine, civil liability is fine," he said. "They're committed to what they're doing. Other topics covered in the session included whether Gallegos has tried a case yet and whether he is getting into schools to help prevent youths from entering the criminal justice system. To the former, Gallegos said he has handled a number of preliminary hearings and for a while handled misdemeanors. But at this point he has not taken any cases to trial. Regarding schools, Gallegos said prevention and education efforts are a top priority for his administration. To date Gallegos has become involved in an area school attendance review board. Gallegos conceded that other issues, such as his controversial lawsuit against Pacific Lumber Co., have taken a lot of his time. But he plans to make further inroads, including meeting with university students to talk about issues such as date rape. "That has to be our goal," he said. "The only way we're going to change future criminal conduct is through education."Some of those in attendance at the meeting included county Supervisor Bonnie Neely, Superior Court Judge J. Michael Brown, Eureka Police Capt. Murl Harpham and numerous representatives from business. After the meeting, many Rotarians stayed to shake hands and chat with the district attorney. Afterward, Eureka attorney Will Fay said he thought Gallegos, who was invited by the club to speak, did a good job. Fay added that even if some in the club may include Gallegos' critics, it's important that the district attorney be given a chance to speak directly to those critics. Gallegos, who has made a growing number of such appearances in recent months, said he also thought Monday's meeting went well, particularly in regards to his getting the chance to further clarify his medical marijuana policy."Many have said after they heard the truth they think what we're doing is a good thing," he said. "The problem is most of them hadn't had the truth."Source: Times-Standard (CA)Author: James Tressler, The Times-Standard Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2003Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc.Contact: editor times-standard.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Medicinal Cannabis Research Links Officers' Group Backs DA Recall Says Medical Pot Policy in Effect Upping Medical Marijuana Limit to 99 Plants
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